People across the UK spend an average of 35 hours per week at work – and for some, significantly more. When employees are dedicating that much of their time, and life, to a workplace, it is crucial for employers to do their part in cultivating employee well-being. But what does that mean? And where should businesses start?
We have compiled this list of 20 staff well-being ideas that can be used as a starting point. No business needs to do all 20 – some may even find that they already have several initiatives already in place, maybe more – but for those who are not sure how well they comply with staff well-being guidelines, or would just like a nudge in the right direction, we can help.
What Is Staff Well-being and How Can It Benefit My Business?
Put simply, staff well-being is the measure of how an individual’s job affects their physical and mental health. But there are other factors that can sway the balance one way or the other, for example, financial and social well-being too.
A recent study undertaken in the UK showed that 36% of people were unhappy at work. Each of the above factors will be contributing to this unfortunate figure, but the number can be reduced with a simple but effective well-being strategy. When employees feel their needs are being met, and that their employer values and respects them, they are more likely to thrive.
New ideas and passion are vital to the success of any business, in the corporate sphere and beyond. But without well-being initiatives, that vital energy dwindles along with staff morale – and, once lost, it is a difficult thing to earn back. However, by prioritising staff well-being, a business creates a comfortable and dependable workplace that gives staff room to not only see to their personal needs but also develop their professional ones.
Despite the name, staff well-being benefits both employees and employers, and is guaranteed to invigorate the overall health of a business and keep it limber for years to come.
What Is a Workplace Well-being Initiative?
A workplace well-being initiative is simply a programme or strategy that a company puts in place to reduce stress and improve happiness in the workplace. A well-being initiative usually consists of several elements that aid and revitalise an employee's work week and, as a result, increase productivity.
This list below consists of 20 staff well-being initiatives that all businesses, big or small, should start including in their overall business strategy.
20 Staff Well-being Ideas to Start Implementing Today
1. Conduct a Staff Well-being Survey
We think this is the best place to start, especially for those who need an insight into the minds of their workforce. A staff well-being survey is a carefully considered list of questions surrounding workplace subjects such as mental health, work-life balance, and relationships with senior management. These questionnaires provide valuable statistics to companies and will help them to tailor their well-being strategy to target evident pain points in their staff.
2. Lunch Breaks Are Important, so Enforce Them
We have all been there: work piling up and deadlines looming, you glance at the clock and decide, yet again, to work through your break. This is a destructive habit that will eventually result in burnout, so prevent it by making sure your staff go to lunch every day. Everyone needs time to recharge and take some time away from their desk, and without adequate breaks workers’ stamina depletes little by little until, eventually, they fall flat.
It is the employer's job, when they see this happening, to check in and reassure their staff if they are ever worried that a lunch break is a waste of time. Help them to see that is not the case.
3. Create a Company Culture That Runs on Recognition and Praise
Staff are not asking to have their hands held every day, or for a pat on the back after completing simple tasks, but a little recognition and praise can go a long way towards keeping an individual on the right track. Make it part of your strategy to make time to let your staff know when they have completed a job well or reached a goal, and offer praise for positive steps taken and targets hit. This will create a satisfying culture, where employees want to achieve more and be recognised for doing so.
4. Encourage Healthy Snacking at Work
Good work-life balance starts with a balanced diet. Employers can take part in Vegan challenges to get their staff excited about healthy lifestyles outside of work, or invest in weekly deliveries of fresh fruit to keep the workplace well-stocked for peckish afternoons. You could also purchase a smoothie maker for the staff room to encourage people to make healthier alternatives to drink.
5. Recognise the Importance and Value of Sick Days
We all get unwell from time to time but, like skipping lunch breaks, it can become too easy to think you must ‘power through’ and harder to shift the guilt – especially if other members of the team are covering for your absence.
According to a study in 2021, over half (52%) of workers in the UK admitted to not taking a sick day during a 12-month period. To combat this, employers must lead by example and encourage their staff to take time off when they are unwell. This ‘push through’ mentality, in order to meet deadlines and feel valuable to the team, not only prioritises work over health, but it will also result in prolonging illnesses and spreading to colleagues.
Staying at home when sick is valuable to the employee, as it will allow them to recover more quickly, and to the company, as they will be ready to work at full capacity sooner.
6. Fill the Workplace With Natural Light and Plant Life
Your physical work environment has a huge impact on your overall well-being. A recent American study found that incorporating natural light into the workplace demonstrated benefits to employee health, wellness, and performance.
- Health benefits: Lowering incidents of Computer Vision Syndrome, and the symptoms that contribute to it (such as eyestrain, blurred or double vision, and tension headaches).
- Wellness benefits: Adequate natural light exposure helps to combat worker fatigue and drowsiness, keeping staff sharp and attentive throughout the day. It can also improve the overall happiness of the individual.
- Performance benefits: Increasing access to daylight is proven to help eyes recover from fatigue faster and enhance staff energy levels long-term so, as a result, it can also increase productivity and output exponentially.
Incorporating plants and other flora into the workplace shares the same wellness- and performance-based benefits as natural light, as well as helping to create a fresh and welcoming environment to work. Real plants also work to naturally purify the air.
7. Provide Reliable Mental Health Resources
It is known that, in the UK, 1 in 4 people are living with a mental health condition. With 14% caused by the workplace directly – with depression and anxiety ranking highly here. It is crucial that employees at least know they can always speak to their line manager or Human Resources about any such issues, and that they will be met with seriousness and respect.
With depression and anxiety being so common in the workplace, it is important for businesses to combat the rise with first-rate well-being initiatives. These can include resources like mental health programmes to education teams and management on the seriousness of these issues, and help them better support their fellow colleagues, and counselling provided by either the company itself or outsourced and funded for an agreed time.
8. Stretch Your Legs and Try Walking Meetings
A walking meeting serves the same purposes as a regular one – discussing ideas or concerns, informing individuals on changes or news, planning for future projects – but comes with the added benefit of being a perfect staff well-being initiative.
Going for walks can increase productivity and alleviate fatigue, not only that but they also help to stimulate creativity and memory recall. So, as the perfect addition to any healthy lifestyle, walking meetings are a brilliant opportunity to not only get some fresh air but also a fresh perspective.
9. Stay Active in the Workplace
On the subject of keeping active during work days, according to the NHS, adults should aim to exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, and companies can encourage staff to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle by taking part in exercise challenges or even, for a bit of added fun, dance battles. Exercise aids well-being both mentally and physically, whilst also acting as the perfect team-bonding activity.
10. Educate Staff on the Beneficial Nature of Performance Reviews
Research has shown that 49% of UK workers feel either dread or indifference towards their performance reviews. With this largely negative outlook affecting nearly half of workers, it is important that the culture around performance reviews is better, and employees understand how they can benefit from them.
Performance reviews are an incredibly positive opportunity to not only discuss increases in pay but also as a way for employees to be reminded of their strengths and better understand areas that could be improved. It is a valuable and vital conversation between employee and employer and should be something that is encouraged and looked forward to. Letting employees know where they stand professionally, and providing actionable goals can really improve work ethic and overall well-being at work.
11. Consider Regular Raises
One of the best ways to improve staff satisfaction and retention is with regular pay rises. Money will always be a strong incentive and a brilliant way to enhance drive and build trust. As a well-being initiative, it does not mean that employers must grant pay rises to everyone, but if particular individuals are valuable to the business, regular raises should be considered.
Money can be a sensitive subject for some, so the best way to nail this initiative is to create a clear raise and bonus programme that illustrates the details of when staff can expect salary reviews and, performance depending, how often they can expect future raises to be spaced out.
12. Prioritise Personal and Professional Development for Staff
Aside from regular salary reviews, how else can a business prove they care about an employee's personal and professional development? Well, one of the best ways is to organise regular refresher programmes and training opportunities.
In order to maintain staff well-being, employers must prove they are invested in their staff’s career and future growth. Offering the chance to train existing skills or retrain in new ones shows that dedication and makes for happier staff all round.
13. Hold Company-Wide Seminars or Meetings More Regularly
Regular intimate meetings between departments or single teams are important, as they tackle specific issues and get information across efficiently. However, company-wide meetings are a good way to promote staff well-being.
Why? This kind of meeting format helps staff to feel part of the greater whole and offers opportunities for distant teams to mix and exchange ideas and inspiration. They also allow for companies to actively relay exciting stats and new strategies, emphasising the group effort of your company goals and helping to instil a feeling of togetherness in the workforce.
14. Allow For Flexible Work Hours and Working-From-Home
Since Covid-19 hit and so many were forced to work from home, companies have since been dealing with whether or not to keep the new structure or take it away entirely. Though in the past, people have been entirely office-based, the pandemic has shown us that remote working is possible and sometimes beneficial to increasing productivity.
Plus, depending on your personal situation, sometimes life can get in the way of work - and so many employers are opting for remote working rather than extended leave to facilitate these individual needs (situations that involve parents and carers or leave due to health reasons). Offering flexible work hours or the opportunity to work from anywhere, you can limit distractions for your staff, enhance their overall well-being, and see better results in the long run.
15. Offer Sabbaticals for Wellness and Development
A sabbatical is a period of paid leave that an employee is eligible to take after being with a company for about 3 to 7 years. A sabbatical is usually taken by an employee who wants to focus on their professional development, enrich their knowledge pool, or gain a new perspective that they can then bring back to the company.
Though professional development would be an investment for the company, that does not mean to say sabbaticals are not also taken for personal development – for example, extended child care or other family emergencies. The only time an employee would not be eligible for a sabbatical would be if they planned to do nothing effective with the time for themselves or the company. But there is no reason their time cannot be spent on other things, like wellness activities or family matters, unrelated to the business or their career within it.
Sabbaticals are proven to improve wellness and employee engagement in the long term. Incorporating sabbaticals into a company culture can show long-serving employees that they are valued. But more than that, all staff should feel comfortable approaching their superiors to discuss extended time off, paid or not.
16. Utilise Standing Desks to Combat Sedentary-Related Illness
Sedentariness is a lifestyle characterised by prolonged periods of sitting and very little physical exercise. Office-based jobs are the number one example of a sedentary job, and the dangers that they can pose to staff health and wellness should not be ignored.
Standing desks prevent illnesses caused by sedentariness such as heart disease, metabolic syndromes, and depression. If a business cannot afford to overhaul its current setup, it should encourage staff, as long as they are physically able, to get up from their desks every hour, stand while using the phone, and take stairs instead of elevators. There are also cheap but effective cardboard alternatives that companies can invest in - they are easy to install, eco-friendly, and work just as well as traditional standing desks.
17. Upgrade to an Unlimited Annual Leave Policy
At first, this can sound unfathomable. How would this system work efficiently? And not result in every member of staff taking over 6 months of every year off?
Unlimited holiday is a perk offered by several companies, such as Netflix and LinkedIn, and has proven to be extremely successful for both staff wellness and increasing productivity. The way it works is that as long as an employee sees to all their duties efficiently, meets their deadlines, and continues to show results, they are entitled to unlimited annual leave.
This generous offer has yielded some great results for the companies that have adopted it, mostly as a way of building a strong bond of trust between employee and employer. Most have found that, due to this trust and added responsibility, staff do not ‘overspend’ their allowance, and have shown increased well-being and work ethic when carrying out their daily duties. As with everything, it is a balance of trust.
18. Offer Unlimited Maternity and Paternity Leave
In a similar vein to unlimited annual leave and sabbaticals, companies are encouraged to offer unlimited maternity and paternity leave to employees with children. Others such as Twitter, Netflix, and Etsy have taken the lead in this benefit, and have shown a vast improvement in overall staff wellness as a result.
Schools have about 13 weeks of holiday a year, but the average worker in the UK has less than 6. Parents and guardians are then forced to strategically book holidays, in competition with others in the team, and even then they cannot cover every day – meaning they are forced to rely on alternative means of childcare, which can be expensive and detrimental to the child’s development.
When a workplace offers unlimited maternity and paternity leave, the pressure is taken off caregivers, relieving them of anxiety and worry, reducing stress, and allowing them to focus more comfortably on their work.
19. Improve Staff Well-being With Volunteer Programmes
Give back to your staff and your community by encouraging volunteer initiatives. The average person looking to volunteer will find that, due to working full time, they are unable to. Volunteer programmes allow for individuals to pursue a cause of their choice during work hours, which not only benefits local efforts but also improves staff well-being as an effective team-building activity.
20. Help Staff to Create Authentic Friendships at Work
To end on a high note, we come to an initiative with arguably the largest effect on staff well-being: Friendships between coworkers.
Lasting and authentic connections between colleagues are the one thing that is guaranteed to increase happiness and well-being in the workplace. Though an employer has little sway when it comes to who will and will not get on, they can instead create opportunities for teams to mingle. Some examples include buddy programmes for new starters, team drinks, and company trips.
When people are given the chance to connect properly with the people in their workplace, it can make coming to work each day much more enjoyable – which will enhance career passion, increase retention rates, and maintain staff well-being long into the future.
Make Adjustments and Improve Staff Well-being for Good
The workplace can be a mentally and physically demanding place, and in some industries, there is little an employer can do to ease the strain on staff. However, armed with our 20 staff well-being ideas, companies can formulate steadfast initiatives that reduce mental illness and stress, balance workloads and increase the overall happiness and well-being of their staff.
Our range of offices and coworking spaces come in bespoke designs, all beautifully furnished with plenty of natural light and plant life – creating an idyllic place to house your business and maintain staff well-being. Contact us today to find out how we can help.